Christmas Stocking: A Candy Cane.

By: Bill Whaley
15 December, 2019

Re: the appointment of New Mexico House of Representatives member Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales of El Prado/Pot Creek/Ranchos de Taos to New Mexico Senate District 6 to the seat of the late Senator Carlos Cisneros, “Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office said in a prepared statement on Friday (Dec. 13): `He had a close working relationship with Senator Cisneros, which is an important factor for the community in ensuring consistency and stability’” (qtd. from The Taos News).

Despite the naysayers and progressives, who find Bobby’s appointment a reflection of the past or worry about his former opposition to charter schools, or even his twisted relationship with the language of public speaking, the members of the Chicano Chamber of Commerce, based in El Prado, feel reassured.

After all, as Arsenio Cordova (RIP) might have said, “Bobby’s from here.” Or as John Painter of EPWSD has said, Bobby has sure helped “the district.”

Though the Chicano Chamber is more ghostly and virtual than real today, what with young Jason Montano having stepped up with scissors and electric razor in place of the legendary barber, Juma Archuleta (RIP), and while “Clean Gene” Sanchez (RIP) and Arsenio, whose voices drift down from the double rainbow and debate who will replace the absent barber as President of the activist organization, so the voice of El Prado’s mayordomo rejoices in the stop-gap (the diminishing influence of Spanish-Hispanic-Chicano political influence represented by Gov. Lujan-Grisham’s) appointment.

Michelle is related to Arsenio’s wife Cathy, who has republican (but not Trumpean) roots, which rise from the likes of former republican Congressman Manuel Lujan (RIP): all this despite both Cordovas’ congress with “fellow travelers” i.e. democrats like Juma, Geno, and yours truly.

But here’s the point. Bobby represents, like any good northern New Mexico politico, a history of human relationships, relationships to people and pork, the politics that keep water districts, roads, community centers, and UNM, Taos open and functioning just as Senator Cisneros did.

(At the beginning of my Horse Fly career (1999-2009, Sen. Cisneros’ gatekeeper, Margret Vigil (RIP), told me, “The Senator is teaching Bobby the ropes.”)

Bobby appeared before the County Commission, along with Mayor Barrone, and Ms. Ortez, the progressive rep of the so-called future, who is not from here, when they were all seeking the nod from commissioners to send one of their names up to the fourth floor of the Roundhouse. Gonzales and Barrone spoke of family and education. Ms. Ortez spoke the language of progressives, green energy and diversity, whatever, but she was politely tuned out.

Bobby referred to his many years as Superintendent of the Public Schools and Barrone, lamented, as politicians have been doing for the last 50 years in Taos, about the accelerating exit of young people to the greater world, as if he or any pol could do anything about it. Though Bobby mentioned his career as educator, he failed to mention the failing public schools, a seemingly intractable problem for New Mexico pols.

(Course individual students and some families manage to overcome the challenges. I began the semester at UNM teaching about 70 plus students in three English classes and they “tell me things about the schools,” which I will relate in some future column. And many of these students are succeeding as we speak. But the community-wide graduation rates as a rule are not so good. And I lost about twenty along the way this semester. Shame on me.)

Bobby shines when asked questions about tax and rev, bonds and finance. He addressed this seemingly arcane topic with specifics and briefly lectured commissioners and audience on mil levies, interest rates, bond restrictions, and the like. He suddenly sounded professorial. His years on the finance committee, like Senator Cisneros, have paid off. And he’s from here, which, in its way, is a profound and necessary connection.

Here in Taos, the elements of “colonization,” much embraced by the Town but less so by the County, still bedevil native and newcomer alike. Resistance is a Taosenos’ second nature as it is the black-sheep members of my generation (60s and 70s era) newcomer Anglos. Everyone tries to accept and resist simultaneously in order to earn a living and accommodate change without losing their souls. It’s a paradox and one of the perils of living in paradise.

With my UNM students, we just finished “reading” (looking at?) “Taos Indians and the Battle for Blue Lake” as well as “The Milagro Beanfield War.” My more insightful or committed students, natives and non-natives, recognized the parallels and a few wrote wonderful papers about the portrayal of spirit in community arising from “place.” True education needs a dollop of experience and work, accompanied by reading books, in order to double the pleasure and the effects of living well.

Next week, I’m going to write about the arrival of the Socratic Santa Claus at the Taos County Complex on Thursday, Dec. 12, and, after that about the rather new and devilish “opiate of the people.”

Meanwhile, today, I shall check out the choppy powder on Longhorn and Lorelei at TSV along with my granddaughter and her best friend. Yesterday the early snow rewarded December skiers including this chopper. Maybe climate change is good for us. Quien Sabe? Everything is always upside-down in Taos.